5 Tips for Marketing to Baby Boomers

I’m a baby boomer so it puzzles me how much marketing spend goes to wooing the young, the vibrant, the sexy and the cool by extensively featuring them in advertising. This fascination for targeting a younger consumer market, with longer term potential perhaps, to the exclusion of people in the 49 to 68 boomer segment blows me away - especially as boomers are known to be self-indulgent, eternally optimistic, defiant of aging, and in love with media. (Remember we were the first to experience television). Things though are changing; many global brands have started using boomer models to promote their products.

Let me give you some examples. More than eighty-five million people have viewed a YouTube video of Claude van Damme doing the splits between two moving Volvo trucks - a stunt incidentally he did himself in one take - to promote the precision of Volvo’s dynamic steering system. Here we have a 54-year boomer demonstrating this demographic can be vibrant, sexy and cool too! Louis Vuitton ads feature Catherine Deneuve; and 68-year old Charlotte Rampling is the face of Nars’ Audacious Lipstick Collection.

So, why aren’t more companies marketing to boomers? Perhaps it’s because the marketing industry has traditionally focused on consumers until they reach the magic age of 49 and then ignore them in favour of the next ‘crop’ of potential customers. Or perhaps the advertising and marketing industry is inhabited by Millennials who see boomers as being on their way out - a dying breed.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Boomers represent the fastest growing age group in Canada. In 2011, according to Stats Canada, there were 9.6 million baby boomers in Canada and a staggering 77 million (44 percent of the population)) in the U.S. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau). By any standards, that’s a market too large to ignore. The other fallacy is boomers are not big spenders. Well, in the United States, studies show boomers will soon hold 70 per cent of the country’s disposable income and be responsible for buying almost 50 per cent of consumer packaged goods. Those statistics are mirrored in Canada.

In B.C. by 2038, between 24 - 27 per cent of residents will be 65 or older. Over the next 24 years, a whole lot of boomers will be in their prime earning (and spending) years prior to retirement. And many of them will continue to work well beyond ‘normal’ retirement age.

Boomers are not one breed, but many. Remember, the youngest boomers are 53 and the oldest are 71. They are generally fitter, healthier and more optimistic than their parents were at their age.

But an almost twenty-year age spread still has to be taken into account in your marketing strategy. You are still going to find a minority who live life very much as their parents did - work to 65, potter in the garden, die a few years later (probably from boredom). I know, however, in my circle of personal and business friends, within this demographic, there is a well-defined common thread defining them as boomers. We are identifiable in the traits we exhibit.

So what do we need to know about this valuable sector if we are going to market to it? I’ve come up with several key points, or perhaps observations that will help you reach boomers with your marketing message.

  1. One of the keys to reaching boomers is to see them as they see themselves. “I warn you, treat me as old and I’ll shun your product,” could be their mantra. If you’re going to feature boomers in your advertising you’d better be thinking more Pierce Brosnan, than Gerard Depardieu. We’re fitter, healthier, more active, and age defying - we are not our father’s or mother’s sons or daughters. We are a different breed altogether. We’ll fight aging until our last breath!

  2.  Boomers are constantly reinventing themselves and how they live - they always have been. They continually look for new ways to stay young and experience life to its fullest. They are adventurous. Think about the people you know in this age group - how many are dreaming of moving house? Not just locally, but to a different part of the country or even to a foreign country when they eventually retire? Perhaps they are considering starting a new business, buying a new home, doing volunteer work in a third-world country, going wilderness trekking, taking up kayaking or another active and challenging sport, or simply travelling as much as they can? When marketing to them treat them as adventurers - active not sedentary. The point here is they have plans, unlike their parents who often stagnated in retirement. They are looking for new experiences, hobbies, interests, which makes them winnable as customers.

  3. It’s a myth boomers are not technologically savvy, don’t buy online, and don’t do social media. According to studies, 70 per cent of Boomers have a Facebook account and 40 per cent actively use it. Over 3 million boomers purchased products online last year and Stats Canada states, “As Internet-literate baby boomers are about to enter their later years they represent an important market for new products and platforms, which may be designed to meet their needs.”

  4. Boomers will no longer be retiring in droves as we expected. The economic downturn hit many of them hard and they will be forced to remain in the workforce longer. For many, this will be a blessing as they are not ready for retirement - especially now that 65 is the new 55. This delay in having to rely on a fixed income means boomers will continue to be active consumers for the foreseeable future. Not only that, they will be earning at a higher level than younger people, making them a very attractive consumer group for marketers.

  5. It is a myth people in this age group stick to the brands they have always used. I for one don’t use Old Spice or wear Levis any more. I shop in the same stores as my early thirties children and often wear not only the same brands, but also the same styles as they do. I use the same hairdresser as my eldest son. We have the same Apple iPhone, I use the same apps and we text and FaceTime each other almost every day. Which leads me to an interesting brand fact - 40 per cent of Apple products are bought by boomers!

So, boomers are the big under-targeted market - an incredibly valuable market to go after. They offer an amazing opportunity - especially if your competitors are ignoring them in favour of a younger audience.

To me, the most amazing thing about us boomers is, if you get us hooked on your brand, you’ll have us as customers for longer than you may think. In 2013, there were just 7,000 people in Canada 100-years or older. In its latest report, Stats Canada predicts this number will grow to 63,000 by 2063. Now, there’s a market with longevity!

About Trenval

Trenval Business Development Corporation is Bay of Quinte’s Community Futures Business Specialist, financing business start-ups, expansions or successions in the Quinte region for 34 years. Trenval can help with small business support including small business funding and small business loans.

 

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